The Great Barrier Reef of Australia faces a host of challenges in the years to come. It has suffered bleaching of much of its coral due to ocean acidification, but also threats from climate change and exposure to waste water, as well as damage from overfishing and nearby coastal developments.
According to an Associated Press report, the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is calling for greater measures to be taken in order to preserve what is one of the most diverse marine ecosystems, in addition to being one of the most incredible sites in the world. CNN named the reef as one of the seven wonders of the world.
The reef, located off the coast of Queensland, Australia, stretches for 1,430-miles and consists of 2,900 different coral reefs and 900 separate, smaller islands. Billions of living creatures known as coral polyps are responsible for the structure, which can be seen from space.
Much of the damage to the reef is due to dredge spoil, dumped from boats along Queensland’s harbors, and exported coal. Greg Hunt, Australia’s minister of environmental affairs, spoke at a summit in Bonn, Germany, this week, maintaining that Australia has “clearly heard” UNESCO’s concerns and seeks to begin a 35-year conservation effort.
“At the end of the day what matters is that the current documented declines are halted and reversed,” said Fanny Douvere, a UNESCO spokeswoman. The World Wildlife Federation expects a full ban on dumping to be enacted within the coming three months.
Australia’s environment minister, Greg Hunt, told the meeting in Bonn, Germany, that his country had “clearly heard” the committee’s concerns and would strive to implement a 35-year conservation plan for the reef.
Among the species at risk in addition to the valuable corals, are sea turtles and dugongs, a type of sea mammal related to manatees.